U of R the star in the new movie – The Sabbatical

By Costa Maragos Posted: September 3, 2015 6:00 a.m.

U of R grads and actors James Whittingham and Laura Abramsen co-star in The Sabbatical.
U of R grads and actors James Whittingham and Laura Abramsen co-star in The Sabbatical. Photo - Frame enlargement from The Sabbatical.

Watch the new movie, The Sabbatical, and you will see a lot of familiar scenes from the University of Regina.

That’s no accident. The man who directed and co-wrote the movie is Brian Stockton, an instructor at the U of R’s Film Department in the Faculty of Fine Arts.

“I love the architecture of the campus,” says Stockton.

Most of the people involved in the making of the movie (production and actors) have strong U of R connections.

“That is the best. To be able to work with some of my students and others who have graduated recently is tons of fun,” says Stockton. “For a lot of them this is their first credit on a feature film.”

The Sabbatical is a light comedy about a photography professor named James Pittman (James Whittingham BFA ’92) who is told he must produce new work while he is on sabbatical.

James finds himself at a stage in his life feeling alone, struggling and mired in a mid-life crisis as his professor wife Jillian (Bernadette Mullen Green - U of R Theatre) is a rising star in the academic world.

James, however, is changed by a friendship with a young free-spirited artist, Lucy (Laura Abramsen - BFA Theatre ’15). Things get a little complicated from there.

Check out the trailer for The Sabbatical here.

"The underpinnings of this story are quite serious and important but we look at those things through the comedy,” says Stockton who graduated with a BFA from the U of R in 1990.

“It’s maybe a story we’ve seen before. It’s a mid-life crisis but I’d like to think there’s something surprising and fresh and original about this take on it just because in the way James and Laura are together on film. It’s a fun ride.”

Stockton was asked if tenured professors will see a little of themselves in the movie.

“I’ve been full time at the U of R five or six years and I have tenure so I am coming up to my first sabbatical in about a year. I’m looking forward to it. As for fellow professors, I’m hopeful they’ll get a kick out of the movie,” says Stockton.

Given the movie’s budget restrictions, Stockton says the film was made possible thanks “to the kindness of friends and strangers” and assistance from various funding sources which included: The Saskatchewan Arts Board; The Saskatchewan Film Pool Cooperative; Indigogo; Autumn Productions and Telefilm Canada.

“I think things are starting to look up for the film industry in Saskatchewan,” says Stockton. “We are seeing more productions picking up. I think we are in a rebuilding phase and I see this as an opportunity to build from here.”

Stockton and his team have received some good news. The Sabbatical will premiere at the Whistler Film Festival this December.

“It’s great. Having the premiere at Whistler is really important. We did not make this film to make money. We simply love making films. So to show this at a festival is great because it will be before an audience that loves film,” says Stockton.